Panama to tighten immigration policy for Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Panama’s government said on Friday it will tighten its immigration policy toward Venezuela, Colombia and Nicaragua, including halving the amount of time tourists from the countries can stay in the isthmus nation.

Scattered street protests have broken out in recent months in Panama against immigrants who critics blame for fomenting lawlessness in the country, some directed at Venezuelans.

Panama also has complained that the peace process between the Colombian government and Marxist rebels there has hurt the Central American country by sparking a surge in drug production.

“The measure is going to be focused in reducing the permit to stay for tourists from 180 to 90 days and ensure that those people have the income to certify that they are entering the country as such,” President Juan Carlos Varela told reporters.

In recent years Panama has absorbed thousands of Colombians fleeing the conflict at home, as well as many Venezuelans seeking to escape economic crisis and social unrest.

Reporting by Elida Moreno; Editing by Bill Trott